Gerry asks Protestants of West Belfast to get out and vote

Having more than likely twisted the arms of direct rule ministers to put in the clause that shifted the rules over who gets to be First Minister, Gerry Adams is now chiding Unionists gently saying they “should get real about what the issues are. The (First and Deputy First Ministers) have co-equal powers in a co-equal department.”

But his next pitch was much more interesting. West Belfast no longer has a Unionist seat, not because it doesn’t have enough Unionists living there, but because too few have registered in the past and fewer have gone out to vote. In fact that’s changed substantially this year. Suffolk (which had been suffering depopulation) is almost full and registrations are already high.

Mr Adams it seems was, helpfully, getting the DUP’s message out for them:

“The biggest section of working- class unionism are those who don’t vote, who were abandoned many decades ago by ‘big house’ unionism and don’t feel any affinity with politics,” he said.

“I would be very, very pleased if these people came out and registered their vote. I am not suggesting that unionists are going to ‘flip’ and become republicans overnight, but many will recognise it is the issues of disadvantage which we have prioritised.”

I’m not sure how many votes it will get them in West Belfast (where memories are long and experiences of the troubles (and even the post Troubles) era truamatic, but it is smart politics. Not least because it is in an area where, as we discovered back in 2003, loyalists are often more credulous of Sinn Fein’s view on matters than politicians on their own side of the fence.

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  • John Ó Néill

    Mick, there isn’t anything to substantiate the thesis that SF prompted the largest party/FM element of StAA. Unionism has never made that claim, not even the TUV, who would surely have thrown it at the DUP long before now. It looks like an attempt to breathe life into the #ae11 version of the bogeyman via a traditional route (there be fenians).

  • Mick Fealty

    Like I said before John, “Macavity’s a mystery cat… he’s called the hidden paw…”

    All we can substantiate is that the DUP didn’t ask for it, and no one was listening the SDLP or the UUPs.

    I think it’s a perfectly fair inference… others may disagree…

  • John Ó Néill

    Sorry – the TUV did make the claim in 2009 (see here). At the same time, Reg Empey blamed the DUP for designed the scheme which SF then backed.

    Would it not be better to fight the election on policies rather than than the juju that had been putting off voters (I’ve nearly pulled this back on topic…)

  • Cynic2

    “many will recognise it is the issues of disadvantage which we have prioritised”

    …which is why the Constituency o0f West Belfast is such a shining beacon of employment, community and social development rather than a crime ridden dump with empty bottles of Buckie in the gutters and flower beds and pensioners beaten to death in their flats by drunken yobs.

    Welcome to Gerry Nirvana …a bit like Cuba without the music and rum.

  • “All we can substantiate is that the DUP didn’t ask for it, and no one was listening the SDLP or the UUPs.

    I think it’s a perfectly fair inference… others may disagree…”

    Sorry Mick but it looks like you are trying to impose a narrative on events based on your own speculation and somewhat ‘unfair’ inferences. As John has said there is nothing to substantiate your speculation and you certainly haven’t “substantiated” the claim that the DUP didn’t ask for it. The logical inference would be that the DUP did instigate things as they had most to gain in the political circumstances of the time i.e. to squeeze the UUP by putting frighteners on the unionist electorate with the spectre of McGuinness becoming FM.

  • Mick Fealty

    Ulick, I am challenging a number of unsubstantiated assumptions rather than inferences.

    For instance, your argument can only work if we ignore what we actually know: ie, that the DUP say it was not them.

    On the other hand it is only SF’s (and the NIO’s post SAA) silence that makes my inference viable. But whilst the context we have is that silence, I believe it is a fair one.

    The rest is optics.

  • Mike the First

    Pretty sure Ed Moloney’s updated biography of Paisley stated that it was SF who realised they’d slippped up at St Andrews, and got the government to change the legislation. The DUP didn’t protest at this change to the St Andrews Agreement since they realised (as SF did) that they could put it to their own electoral advantage.

  • Mick Fealty

    Thanks Mike! I’ll check my copy (when I can find it again).

  • Quincey

    The statement from SF is just another example of incredibly clever counter-spin and ‘arse covering’. All the figures are indicating that Unionism is getting a seat in West Belfast in May, and SF are well aware of this.

  • Lionel Hutz

    Are they? At the expense of SInn Fein or SDLP

  • Niall

    Wikipedia describes those that comment on Slugger as the chattering political classes in Northern Ireland. I think this particular story is for the elite of that so called class. I for one, could not care less what the motives were behind Adam’s comments. In fact, I’m sorry I even read this post, and this is from someone sad enough to have read the Wikipedia entry on Slugger. As well as the ‘Flag as offensive’ and ‘Judge It’ options can we have one that says ‘BORING’.

  • JAH

    Historically the Shankill area has always been hard work for mainstream Unionist parties. The locals generally prefer left leaning independents and Gerry Fitt’s vote was buoyed up by the remnants of NILP for a while (on his last election he was a bit heartbroken at how many votes he still received from that area).

    Whilst GA hadn’t much chance of ever picking up more than the usual fringe votes, a candidate with less baggage may be in a stronger position. But it does show up a real issue that the most disadvantaged feel so disassociated from the process and don’t even register.

  • Mick Fealty

    Niall, that reference was from the first line in a post that was about Gerry’s smart politics. There are links going back to 2003 to provide context for that decision. Yet, it’s the first para that people want to talk about.

    BTW, I could not see that reference. Am I looking at the wrong page, or just being dull?

  • Barry the Blender

    The statement from SF is just another example of incredibly clever counter-spin and ‘arse covering’. All the figures are indicating that Unionism is getting a seat in West Belfast in May, and SF are well aware of this.

    Where on earth did you get those figures from?

  • vinty

    What has sin fein ever done for roman catholics except get them killed by loyalists, Ulster is still British any thing achieved by nationalists could have been acheived without the loss of a single life.

  • john

    Talking about Gerry and West Belfast has anyone heard when the by-election for Westminster is going to be. Ive not heard anything!

  • Chris Donnelly

    Mick
    Given the lack of evidence regarding your initial assertion, I’d agree with John and Brian Walker (on another thread) that it’s not really credible to make the allegation. In fact, the emergence of this allegation at this time is more than likely the product of DUP spin.

    Regarding West Belfast, I wouldn’t put much stock on Suffolk’s ‘high registers’ delivering a unionist seat. This one is for Sinn Fein to lose, not unionism to win. The Dodds factor that delivered the 2003 seat has long since waned on the Shankill, just as the Sinn Fein machine’s ability to make a socio-economically deprived constituency buck all trends and deliver high turnouts now belongs to a past era.

    Yet that is a viable outcome given the paltry turnout in West Belfast last year, and the (unfortunately)underwhelming candidate slate being offered by republicans.

    My money would still be on a 5 SF 1 SDLP return, but I think unionists will come close.

  • Barry the Blender

    My money would still be on a 5 SF 1 SDLP return, but I think unionists will come close.

    At the Westminster election :
    Sinn Fein : 5.11 Q
    SDLP: 1.13 Q
    Unionists: 0.74 Q
    Alliance: 0.13 Q

    5 Sinn Fein and 1 SDLP would appear a dead cert.

    The Dodds factor that delivered the 2003 seat has long since waned on the Shankill,

    Diane Dodds has [gone] off. The DUP found Willie Humphrey to run last time, now he’s [gone] off as well. Don’t know much about this new guy. But I don’t see the DUP hitting their same level of support around the 3,000 mark.

    just as the Sinn Fein machine’s ability to make a socio-economically deprived constituency buck all trends and deliver high turnouts now belongs to a past era.

    If Chris you could elaborate on that I’d be grateful. There are about 5,000 votes I can’t seem to where they went between 1997 and 2001

    [Barry, watch your language please! Mods]

  • Mick Fealty

    Chris,

    On Suffolk, I wouldn’t either. I’m only saying there has been some progress there. The Shankill is the DUP’s big problem. My money is on the status quo.

    On my inference (‘allegation’ implies I’m working off zero evidence, or falsely hardening groundless suspicions) that Sinn Fein asked for the change in how the FM and dFM are elected, there is absolutely no evidence that the DUP asked for it, yet the world and his wife seems to be living vicariously off the UUP’s suspicion that they did.

    Of course I cannot prove beyond all suspicion that it was how things happened. But I can demonstrate that it is foolish to suggest it is not the most likely explanation for how that measure got in there.

    And if you really believe it is not a credible explanation, then how come SF were the only ones to vote against rescinding the clause 16c in the Assembly and Executive Review Committee?

    As I’ve said elsewhere, even Jim Alister does not believe the DUP initiated this move. Had they done so, Sinn Fein would have had the DUP over a barrel over the last four years.

    As for DUP spin. Where are DUPers on this thread and on others wanting to talk about it?

    If they had the ‘nous’ to tease it out properly, it ought to be a piece of UUP spin, trying to demonstrate how the DUP refused to make ‘Martin McGuinness-as-future-FM’ a deal breaker.

    Instead they are ripping each other apart on the matter rather than getting to the heart of what Trimble called at the time, a simple fix. .

  • liam charles

    I am not a fan of the UUP in any way, but I have been impressed by the work of their West belfast candidate. As someone who grew up in West Belfast it is good to see someone who genuinely seems interested in the people and not the politics.

    His response to Gerry here

  • John Ó Néill

    I’ve not seen a list of people who have signalled an intention to run in WB yet but the most likely scenario for unionists to carve out a seat may be in having sweeper candidates who will bring out votes in particular areas, such as the Shankill. Low registration is obviously an inhibiting factor here as is the limited harmony amongst different shades of unionism.

    As to the other dreary steeple issue – it is equally apposite that a consensus on a SF genesis somehow survived unnoticed until an election which unionism had long flagged that its 2011 vintage bugbear would be a SF-FM. That is hardly a coincidence and doesn’t lend much credence to resolving it back to having an SF origin. It also still doesn’t tally with the probable result.

  • john

    John ONeill I have listed the candidates for the West Belfast Assembly election. Not sure if any more will be added at a later date such as Alliance or some of the more interesting independents (Rainbow George).

    Democratic Unionist Brian Kingston
    Socialist Party Pat Lawlor
    Ulster Unionist Bill Manwaring
    Sinn Féin Paul Maskey
    Sinn Féin Jennifer McCann
    Sinn Féin Fra McCann
    Sinn Féin Sue Ramsey
    Sinn Féin Pat Sheehan
    SDLP Alex Attwood

  • Mick Fealty

    Bill Manwaring is a hard worker, and should get a decent haul. It’s interesting he’s concentrating on the Shankill more than Andersonstown this time (given the new UUP posters in which UUP is virtually invisible and UNIONIST is unmissable that makes sense on two levels.

    One there just will be more Bill voters on the Shankill and two the contrast with last year’s soft focus conservative and unionist posters could hardly be more calculated to get a rise out of the average Andersonstown voter.

    John,

    It was Sammy McNally what done it‘s been unusually quiet on this one since I raised it, given he’s been consistently arguing over the last three/four years that in this regard it was SF wiping the DUP’s eye.

    If you think my logic is flawed, be my guest and untangle it for me. That most of the media have had the wrong end of the stick for the last four years is neither here nor there.

    I’ve laid out my argument that it’s the most likely scenario. The only legitimate detail I don’t know is whether it was SF who actually produced the idea or some helpful bod in NIO. But it did not come out of nowhere for no reason.

    Note, it’s not a very big point but like all these semi hidden workings it’s always very useful to have some clarity on where and how they emerged, especially when the most popular urban myth says something else entirely.

  • John Ó Néill

    Mick – it’s the timing of the re-reading of this that makes it look like juju to try and ramp up some fear lest unionists don’t come out and vote. At this stage no-one will hold their hand-up and, since nature abhorrs a vacuum, spin will fill the gap.

  • Mick Fealty

    Like I say, I am very open to challenge. I’m trying not to add to the copious amounts of spin that’s already out there, but rather to take some of it off what’s long since become settled ‘common knowledge’.

    Sammy, help me here?